Communication has always been important, and if we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that community matters more than we ever realized. Not only does communication beget connection during a time when it’s difficult to be close, it also helps keep a community safe.
For resident communities, keeping open lines of communication serves many purposes. It creates a transparent community that is more inclusive, keeping residents aware of meetings, events, community upgrades or construction, and informing them of where their money and fees are being spent. For board members and property managers, communication is a basic necessity, and in Florida a legal obligation, allowing for a well-run community that meets the needs of its residents.
So how do we maintain strong communication and relationships with our residents in an increasingly virtual world?
Communicate proactively. Having an up-to-date website is the first step to proactive communications. This provides residents with a centralized location to find announcements and information on the community. It’s also an excellent tool for prospective residents, letting them get a peek into the culture of the community and see what kinds of activities and amenities are available—all without leaving their own home. Next, be sure to communicate with residents regularly. We recommend touching base at least once a month. Emails and texts are an easy and effective tool to reach an entire community quickly. You should be alerting residents to community events or providing meeting notifications (which in some cases are required by law), asking for resident input, and updating residents on upgrades or work being done within the community.
Harness technology. Today, more communities are turning to technology—like apps and web services—to help support and strengthen communication. It’s been a necessity throughout COVID-19, and we expect to only see that continue as we move forward. Easy-to-use apps or portals help residents, board members, or property managers to easily stay in contact and informed. Utilizing technology is probably something you’ve been doing for a while, but perhaps through a variety of tools, such as emailing some residents, holding a board meeting through a conference call, and texting others. In fact, a recent survey we conducted found that 77 percent of respondents are using email to communicate with residents. And while that is one effective way to communicate, different residents have different needs, and being able to reach residents in the way they prefer boosts satisfaction and communication. “A major challenge was communication with owners and residents,” notes one board member. “We had three separate systems so it was hard to manage data and created errors and back and forth.” Targeted communications technology designed specifically for residential communities can help by consolidating disparate electronic tools you are already using. For instance, some applications allow you to send residents emails, mass texts, and smart calls all from one interface. Social functions can also be integrated, so residents can continue to feel connected within the community. Additionally, technology has been and will continue to be used to keep community members and board members safe and working effectively and efficiently during these uncertain times. Reservations for community amenities can be made electronically (and can be used to limit the number of participants or users), forms can be submitted electronically, and much of the work of running a community can be done virtually. You can even host virtual meetings created specifically for the needs of community boards, with capabilities such as voting tools, recording options, and more. Using specialized technologies to consolidate your many needs can ultimately save time and money and increase resident and board satisfaction.
Maintain Personal Connections.Even when you can’t spend time or meet in person, personal connections are still important. Apps with built-in social functions are one important way to keep those connections alive. Communities can use these features to check in on neighbors, share moments of kindness, ask for recommendations, and connect in ways that typically would have happened in person. Another way is to make sure to reach out to other board members and residents for connection, not just for business. Take a few minutes at the beginning of a virtual board meeting to chat, ask how everyone’s doing, and share experiences. Check in with your residents on a personal level, not just with community news. The more we communicate and share experiences, the more we connect and have deeper relationships, even when we’re forced to be apart.
Be Creative.When the world became more distanced out of necessity, many found creative ways to come together. We have seen residents hold a variety of fun, socially distanced events that have helped keep spirits up and keep them feeling connected to their community and friends within the community. Whether it’s holding a sidewalk art competition, a stuffed animal “zoo,” or a community-wide egg “hunt” (searching for eggs in windows instead of in person), creative events have brought together communities in ways many never thought possible. Many communities are then using technology to reach even more residents by posting pictures through their portals and sharing the joy these events have brought to the community.
The silver lining to the gray clouds of COVID-19 is that out of difficult situations, there often comes a time of pulling together and helping one’s neighbors. Throughout this past year we have seen that time and time again. In a business where community is essential and communication is the key to serving that community, we’ve seen how regular outreach, technology, and creativity have truly made our communities stronger.
Managing Director, Vinteum Software
Jonathan Doro is the Managing Director for Vinteum Software, a website and communication software. Communication is at the heart of everything Vinteum offers, and our technology is easy to use but has the depth you need. Our latest innovation brings virtual meetings to life, so even when distanced, discussions can be had, votes taken, and decisions made quickly. We also offer solutions for amenity reservations, package tracking, service requests, sending messages via email, SMS and voice, and much more. Reach out today at Vinteum.io or (844) 900-0910.
Professional Growth Through Learning
FCAP (Florida Community Association Professionals) is a member-based professional organization dedicated to training, equipping and advocating for Florida community association professionals including managers, service providers and community volunteer leaders.